Where's the Tail?

Marge’s tail fell out and I’m not worried about it. Although, judging from your emails, feather loss is the second biggest source of anxiety for chicken keepers (broodiness is first.) Here’s the ugly fact: chickens molt once a year and it’s not pretty. It’s not like one day you go out to the yard and they’ve lost all of their feathers, which then proceed to quickly grow back. Oh, no. The feathers come out in clumps. Slowly. And the feathers that grow back at first look like porcupine quills. Even worse, during this month-long process, the hens stop laying.

Commercial growers try to control the molt. They want their hens to all start and stop at the same time, and they want it to happen as quickly as possible. They practice “controlled starvation” to bring this about. But that’s still iffy, so they’re working on chemical means to initiate the molt. Enough said. That’s not happening with our girls.

Instead, I look at the molt as nature’s way of giving the hens a break from the resource-depleting job of egg laying. And isn’t it nice to know that even the beauties among us have a bad hair (feather) day? :)

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